Senate panel looking at hiring practices at weather agency

By Alex Wilts WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional committee on Monday said it was seeking more information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on whether its employees have boosted their pay in post-retirement contracts with the agency. A former senior NOAA official, P. Donald Jiron, allegedly set the salary and terms of his own post-retirement consulting post at the National Weather Service (NWS), a part of NOAA, according to reports by the Commerce Department’s inspector general’s office and The Washington Post, which prompted an inquiry by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The committee’s statement said that the day after Jiron retired, he returned to the same office to perform his same duties, “but as a contractor with a $43,200 raise and an impermissible $50,000 housing allowance.” Republican Senator John Thune, the committee chairman, wrote in a letter Thursday to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan: “The fact that senior agency officials approved this unseemly arrangement, which clearly warranted closer scrutiny, appears to be indicative of a potential agency-wide problem.” The letter from Thune followed the inspector general’s report citing the $50,000 housing allowance and The Washington Post’s report citing the raise of $43,200.

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